Monday, December 01, 2008

Give Until It Feels Good: Join Team Shift Happens on Kiva

I don’t completely have my head around this post yet, but I decided I should just go ahead and put it out there anyway. We’re approaching the Holiday season for a lot of folks in my neck of the woods and, while I hesitate to use the power of the “press” that I have with this blog, I felt like I should perhaps try to do some good here.

Hearing Greg Mortenson speak so passionately at NCTE reminded me of another organization that I was intending to support this year, Kiva:
Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.
Kiva allows individuals to contribute a small amount of money that is then loaned to entrepreneurs in impoverished communities. When that loan is repaid (currently almost 97% are repaid), then the individual that originally made the loan can choose to loan the money out to another entrepreneur, donate it to kiva to help with their operating expenses, or actually get the money back.

Poor people in impoverished communities often don’t have access to financial institutions and capital, and microfinancing addresses this problem. It is especially helpful to women, who often are the key to raising families – and communities – out of poverty. It’s also my opinion that this is one of the best ways to help achieve peace in the world.

So, while I’m still giving some small presents to family members this year, I’m redirecting some of the money we’d usually spend to Kiva. I thought it might be nice to use the reach of this blog, and my Personal Learning Network, to try to grow this a little bit, so this is what I’m trying to do.

First, I’ve donated $25 to an entrepreneur ($25 is the minimum they accept). But I’ve also purchased two $25 gift certificates that I then emailed to two members of my PLN. I’m asking those folks to then do two things. First, they can choose which entrepreneur to loan the $25 to (they can pick the one I picked, or any of the 773 currently available). Then I’m asking them to consider doing the same thing – purchasing two $25 gift certificates and emailing them to two members of their PLN (with the same request that those folks continue the cycle, a Kiva Pay It Forward plan). It would also be great if they blogged about it and left a comment on this post.

Since I’m apparently always going to be connected to the phrase Shift Happens, I thought I’d try to use that to do some good, so I created Team Shift Happens on the Kiva site:
We loan because Shift Happens, and we want to be the change we want to see.
So, those email requests will also ask that when they make those loans they add them to Team Shift Happens so that we can keep track of the total (they still direct where the loan goes, it just gets aggregated under the team).

Shift Happens opines that we live in “exponential times” and, if these folks take me up on this, our contributions have the potential to grow exponentially. To hedge my bets, however, I’m also asking you to join Team Shift Happens as well. Yes, you, gentle reader. Whether you’re an education blogger, a student at Arapahoe (or any other school), or just some other interested reader, I’d like you to consider signing up at Kiva and contributing. (If you’re a student, please check with your parents first. Or, if you’re at AHS, I’ll happily collect and aggregate small cash donations in my office and then make the loans myself on Kiva.)

You can either make a $25 loan yourself, or, what I’d love to see, do the same thing that I’m doing (make a $25 loan, then purchase two $25 gift certificates and email them to folks you know and ask them to do the same). If you’re a blogger, also consider blogging about this and making the same request to your readers. I realize not everyone will be comfortable with that, or has $75 to spare, so please contribute what you can. If you wish, it would be great if you then add your loan so it counts toward Team Shift Happens so we can see what we can accomplish together, and leave a comment on this post.

So, like others this time of year, I’m asking you to give. Give until it feels good.

Update 12-2-08: My entrepreneur is now fully funded, at least partially due to the generosity of the folks that read this post. But there are still many more people needing funding - please consider participating.


  1. This is a great idea Karl. One thing I am doing with the entire grade 8 team after the break is to create inquiry based projects that make a difference. Kids will be expected to create a 2 minute movie explaining how they can change the world around them. I had heard of micro loans before but not there is a site that makes this accessible to students.

    It will be interesting to see the topics that the students will choose and what "difference" they will make.

    Great Idea and now going this will be some great X-mas presents for people I know.

    Love your blog. Love the reading and thinking that is always gives me.


    Curious my word verification was Cofino (must be an edublogger thinking google rep since Kim Cofino is one of us:-)

  2. Thanks Chris, welcome aboard. I hope Kim is getting a cut of Google revenues :-)

  3. @Karl Love the blog post, and I love your pay-it-forward-type move. Kiva is a great opportunity to give and keep on giving, and a cool way for students to learn a little about economics while giving as well!

    @Chris Jeff Utecht (formerly of Shanghai American School and now with Ms. Cofino in Bangkok) and I held a two-hour Skype video conference last year with our 150 7th graders and a team of 8th grade students from SAS. The students at SAS were studying global issues and constructing responses--what they could do--to make an impact. One group was studying labor and immigration, and one of their "solutions" was to support KIVA. You can see that group's work here:

    This networked learning experience was a "gift" to our geography teachers and students. Our students saw student-ownership of their learning, and our teachers began to "shift" a traditional geo curriculum for something tailored to more global issue study with geo context.

  4. Never doubt that "Shift Happens" has created anything BUT good. Seeing that video a couple of years ago rocked my world and, hopefully, that of my students.
    As far as I am concerned, this is just ANOTHER way to use if for good. Kiva is a great organization that not only allows entrepreneurs to get started, but offers them the opportunity to pay back, which is where the honor and pride come in as well.
    Thanks for all you do.

  5. Hi. I've sent you an email. A lengthy one. And a message. On Facebook. Not lengthy.

  6. Thanks, Karl. Chris's idea reminds me of one of the sessions I saw at NCTE--a high school teacher had her students write a research/inquiry-based essay based on a global issue that interested them. Part of the research involved developing an action plan to address the issue. This philanthropic "action" aspect of education is something I want and need to incoporate into my classes.

  7. Karl,

    I wanted to thank you for your kind gift and for the opportunity to do something special. Eager to pay it forward.

  8. Karl - been a long time reader and your post, along with that at "25 Days to Make A Difference" inspired me. I tried to join Team Shift Happens when I made my donation but since it was the first time at the site - it didn't allow me to! Sorry! But know that you made a difference and I am paying it forward!

  9. @Theresa G - Thank you so much. Not sure why it didn't let you join the Team, please try again (even if you're loan doesn't get "added") just so that we can see the whole "team."

  10. This is a great post about a great idea! And I love how the other comments add to it, especially the idea of involving students. Thanks for all you do. You are appreciated by many.
    Twitter: mrstmath

  11. I just joined the Shift Happens group -- and only when I signed into Kiva did I realize that it's on my second anniversary of joining it. I appreciate your effort to collaborate with others via the group (I didn't even realize that they had groups like that on Kiva!). Like a lot of folks, I learned about it after watching Frontline a couple of years ago.

  12. Karl,
    What a great idea! I just joined the team and also purchased 2 gift certificates to help pay this great idea forward! I also just blogged about it here:

    Thanks for extending the opportunity to us!

  13. I've known about Kiva for a while but your post inspired me to do something similar with the Google Certified Teacher group.

  14. Bravo! I adore the Christmas spirit when it helps others help themselves! Thanks for the opportunity to join the Team Shift Happens on Kiva! And thanks to Jackie Ballarini for getting me involved!

  15. Thanks Susan, Rich, Lee, Christine and Marie (and Jackie) for participating and spreading the word!

  16. Karl,

    A belated thank-you for bringing to my attention this wonderful organization! I received a gift certificate (thanks Bud!) and payed if forward in kind with two more.

  17. Hi Karl~
    Thanks for encouraging the power of the network to do so much good for other people. I've been a member of Kiva for awhile (a friend is the co-founder), but know it's the power of numbers that can make a quick difference.

    I redeemed my gift certificate and paid it forward to two others. Thanks to Jackie for sending it to me!

  18. Thanks Jackie and Bridget. Bridget, please thank your friend for Kiva - it's a fantastic idea.

  19. I came to this blog post via Will Richardson's Twitter! I, too, discovered Kiva earlier this year and I LOVE IT. I was already blessed with the opportunity to fund - and receive the funds back from - an entrepreneur. It's an amazing opportunity. I'm on a couple of teams already (Team Ohio and Trinity Lutheran), but will have to consider Shift Happens (which I saw on the site without knowing the origin of it!) for my next gift.

  20. Thanks for bringing Kiva back on my radar. An elementary teacher in our district put in a tremendous amount of work at her school with students raising funds and directing those funds as a group. What an amazing real world learning opportunity and another great example of what can be accomplished through technology.

    This is a great project Karl. I know that there are lots of ways to be charitable and people are pulled in all kinds of directions at this time of year, but I hope that "Shift Happens" through this initiative.

    I too appreciate your blog and thoughts on Twitter, my learning has benefited from your sharing.

    Thanks Steve

  21. Great to hear that you are a Kiva fan! If you (or your friends / family) are interested in getting more involved with Kiva, we have two core volunteer programs:

    • Kiva Fellows Program: Individuals spend 10 weeks to one year with a microfinance institution in a developing country, chronicling the lives of the working poor and assisting the microfinance institutions to maximize their relationship with Kiva. (

    • Kiva Translation Program: Volunteering from their own homes, individuals take entrepreneurs’ loan profiles written in the local language and translate to English, which are then posted for lending on Kiva Translators help bring the entrepreneurs' stories to life for potential lenders. (

    ** Languages needed include: Bahasa Indonesia, French, Mongolian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.

  22. Just got a notification that my most recent loan was repaid. So I reloaned it. Thanks again for bringing Kiva to my attention and starting this.

    I'm curious, did most people keep relending the money once it was paid back? How many gift certificates were bought for the team? How much total money was lent? Seems like there could be some nice data in here to analyze. :-)